Inhibitory control of the dominant language: Reversed language dominance is the tip of the iceberg

Matthew Goldrick*, Tamar H. Gollan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Theories of speech production have proposed that in contexts where multiple languages are produced, bilinguals inhibit the dominant language with the goal of making both languages equally accessible. This process often overshoots this goal, leading to a surprising pattern: better performance in the nondominant vs dominant language, or reversed language dominance effects. However, the reliability of this effect in single word production studies with cued language switches has been challenged by a recent meta-analysis. Correcting for errors in this analysis, we find that dominance effects are reliably reduced and reversed during language mixing. Reversed dominance has also consistently been reported in the production of connected speech elicited by reading aloud of mixed language paragraphs. When switching, bilinguals produced translation-equivalent intrusion errors (e.g., saying pero instead of but) more often when intending to produce words in the dominant language. We show this dominant language vulnerability is not exclusive to switching out of the nondominant language and extends to non-switch words, linking connected speech results to patterns first reported in single-picture naming studies. Reversed language dominance is a robust phenomenon that reflects the tip of the iceberg of inhibitory control of the dominant language in bilingual language production.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104410
JournalJournal of Memory and Language
StatePublished - Jun 2023


  • Bilingualism
  • Inhibition
  • Language production
  • Reversed dominance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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